El Cacaotal, or in English “cacao field,” puts the cultural heritage of Peru’s sweet stuff front-and-center through an ethical shopping experience. Located in the capital’s trendy Barranco neighborhood, cacao beans are showcased here for a local audience on home turf. The shop stocks tasty treats from bars to truffles, hot chocolate, and nibs, as well as some unexpected cacao-tinged items like meat marinades, marmalades, and even soaps and eye creams.
Peruvians are statistically low consumers of their own cacao crop, and El Cacao is aiming to change this. Home-grown cacao varieties, such as the Nacional and Criollo, are prized by international chocolate–makers for their distinct flavors and aromas, as well as an enhanced complexity resulting from traditional, sustainable farming methods. Yet, beans are rarely transformed into high-quality chocolate in Peru before it’s exported.
The shop carries exclusively Peruvian products, adhering to the so-called “bean-to-bar” artisan philosophy—you won’t find the industrial additives that go into the most widely available chocolate brands here. The shop works directly with more than 40 small-scale farmers and producers, many of which are backed by social initiatives providing education and training.
El Cacaotal’s owners, including anthropologist and certified taster Amanda Jo “AJ” Wildey, offer regular workshops and tastings for those craving more information about local chocolate production, as well as some history of cacao farming in Peru. Take-home goodies are also sustainably packaged in biodegradable bags and recycled paper.
Know Before You Go
El Cacaotal partners with some local food tours. Beat the crowds by calling ahead or join one to get in on the action.